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Unread 11-08-2005, 08:55 PM
Ian Curtis Ian Curtis is offline
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A journey through FIRST

Mods: If this needs to be moved by all means move it. I though about the FIRST Historians subforum, but it's kind of dead.


I think that am one of the FIRST waves of kids to graduate from several years of FLL to FIRST, and this is my story of that transformation. My memories from way back when this took place are kind of foggy, but I’ll do my best.

I started out my FIRST career as a “lego kid” in 2001 during the FIRST Lego League challenge “Arctic Impact”. It was a good time, we had our ups and downs as a team, and best of all we made it past the sweet sixteen and ended up one barrel off (they were a scoring object) the great eight.

At that first tournament there was a team who I consider to be the 71 of FLL. They called themselves the “LERTS” or “LERT” and their t-shirts bore the slogan “Be a-LERT”. I have guessed they were associated with team 95, but I don’t know. They could do everything, every time and that is roughly the equivilent of capping the vision tetra on the center goal every time, whenever you try. These guys blew my dad who was our coach out of the water. He was impressed beyond impressed and so where we although not to quite the same extent. Also there was this guy named Dean Kamen, and I didn’t know who he was, but my dad looked up to him. I might have shaken his hand, I don’t remember, but I remember him being there. We didn’t win anything although one of our sister teams won against-all-odds.

Fast forward one year. We came back determined to do better than our first year, and to model the “LERT”s .We tried to do everything. Our robot in theory could do everything, but in reality the robot itself had too many physical flaws. Also we made a mistake in setting up our field. However this mistake turned out to be a good thing. We kept busy, talking on walky talkies trying to figure out how to fix this error. That year was “City Sights” and I don’t remember much scoring going on. I think the top score in Maine was a 211 or so out of a possible 360. When the awards ceremony came I can remember sitting there hearing awards getting handed out and being young feeling slightly saddened that again we had come away without a trophy.

Without what is about to happen I wouldn’t have been involved in FIRST until at least this year maybe even later. Our school had three teams 1134, 1135, 1136. The Directors award is the overall award, comprised off a total of the four areas of competition. Which are the research assignment, the robot’s scoring on the field, technical judging, and spirit.

The MC spoke, “And the winner of this years Director’s Award is 11…”
Hmm I remember thinking, I wonder who it is?

“3” Wow, its an area team!

“5” ….

It didn’t hit me or my team mates first, rather it hit the person who headed up the FLL effort in our school. She started cheering while we sat there dumbstruck. Then it his us too. We won. I remember the team members and their parents rushing down to the floor and from then on it becomes a blur, but it was a defining moment in my FIRST career.

Long story short, we raised the money to go down to Houston, Texas for the nationals. Back then the FLL invitational was more of a side show to the FRC pits.

In the Thursday morning of the competition my team caught a FIRST bus filled largely with high schoolers and adults to the Astrodome. I don’t know who this was, but I probably would not be telling this story if it wasn’t for him. He patiently explained to my enthralled father and myself what the game was, and though I didn’t recognize it then, he was really good at explaining the game and the organization. He went through the field, the rankings, the robot design, everything, and even mentioned debates that still go on in these very threads today. I don’t know which team he was on, all I remember was that his team’s robot could go under the little bar on the side of the ramp, and that it was student built. I might have understood “Stack Attack” but I didn’t understand FIRST.

We competed in the FLL invitational and didn’t do so hot. Our robot despite one perfect run performed worse than the regional. But I had fun. This whole time I had been holed up in the pits and had once walked around. I remember being rushed over to see this awesome team who had a green robot, a mini machine shop and was sponsored by Dupont. Guesses anyone? My dad talked to their mentors and was awestruck at what they did. I collected the little trinkets.

Then I saw my first matches. The invitational had ended and my dad really wanted to see the big boy compete. We made the walk through the ramps, and into the seats. I witnessed the elimination rounds. Stack Attack was a pretty aggressive game, but I can remember my jaw dropping when these things moved on their own, and they seemed so advanced. How could kids ever build these? Lego’s was fine and dandy but real robots?

I can remember some of friends saying, “What? Why can’t they beat each other up?” I had known from my discussion with the man on the bus that this wasn't battlebots and I knew then that this was cooler than robot fighting. I sat there and watched. I can still picture 25’s awesome machine. I ended up missing the finals because others wanted to leave. I can also remember throwing paper airplanes and the giant congo line.
Fast forward one last time. In preparation for the research assignment of “Mission Mars” the 2003 FLL game, we went to a local plant to talk to the plant manager about how robots were used. Afterwards the manager mentioned about how his son was involved in a FIRST team in a neighboring town. My dad was immediately caught up in all this and now is a FIRST addict.
If someone had walked up to me in the Astrodome or Reliant Stadium and told me that within a year I would be on a team and within a year and a half I would actually stand on that floor and drive one of those machines, I would have told them they were crazy. I would have laughed even harder if they had said something like, “Oh, by the way, some of the incredible people here will know you exist in two years.”

So remember, no matter what the odds, your wildest dreams can come true with science and technology.
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Last edited by Ian Curtis : 11-08-2005 at 09:05 PM. Reason: Minor Changes
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Unread 11-10-2005, 10:45 AM
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GaryVoshol GaryVoshol is offline
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Re: A journey through FIRST

Quote:
Originally Posted by iCurtis
I started out my FIRST career as a “lego kid” in 2001 during the FIRST Lego League challenge “Arctic Impact”. It was a good time, we had our ups and downs as a team, and best of all we made it past the sweet sixteen and ended up one barrel off (they were a scoring object) the great eight.
You missed Volcanic Panic? That was the first more-or-less "national" release for FLL - there were pilots for two years before - although only 20 teams were invited to Disney for an exhibition. Back then, you had to have woodworkers to build your table fixtures, not all made out of LEGO's like today.

Quote:
Long story short, we raised the money to go down to Houston, Texas for the nationals. Back then the FLL invitational was more of a side show to the FRC pits.
I can only vaguely remember the Maine team at Houston - what was your team name? Do you remember the Dragon Devils from Michigan?

Quote:
We competed in the FLL invitational and didn’t do so hot. Our robot despite one perfect run performed worse than the regional. But I had fun.
City Sights was fun. Dragon Devils didn't do so well on the table (did give the "froot loops" to the IL team to give them a perfect winning score, though). DD's strength had traditionally been in project presentation.

Quote:
Then I saw my first matches. The invitational had ended and my dad really wanted to see the big boy compete.
That was a problem in Houston - you never got time to go over from the 'Dome to Reliant to see the FRC. Much better in Atlanta - although you still don't get a lot of time to see things until FLL is complete.

Quote:
Fast forward one last time. In preparation for the research assignment of “Mission Mars” the 2003 FLL game, we went to a local plant to talk to the plant manager about how robots were used.
Mission Mars was so unique in that the Rovers were going to Mars then (and were driving around by the time of the International). We'll always have a fond spot in our hearts for Spirit and Opportunity. And the awesome Cornell video, especially the bounce landing.

I have been impressed how much more technically advanced FLL has become, especially over the last 3 years or so. Earlier competitions, you could score a large number of points by simply following the "bump and grab" stategy. Later games have become much more sophisticated.

I'll be reffing at a Michigan regional on Saturday. Curtis, are you mentoring any FLL teams now?
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Unread 11-10-2005, 08:02 PM
Ian Curtis Ian Curtis is offline
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FRC #1778 (Chill Out!)
Team Role: Engineer
 
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Location: Puget Sound
Posts: 2,420
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Re: A journey through FIRST

Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryV1188
I can only vaguely remember the Maine team at Houston - what was your team name?
We were the Loose Pieces. As for the Devil Dragons, I think I may. Did your robot have this giant tower thingy on it?

I wish I could mentor a lego team. This year we didn't have any, who knows, maybe next year? I am volunteering at at least one tournament this year though.
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